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The United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement (UKUSA, /juːkˈsɑː/ ew-koo-SAH)[1][2] is a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The alliance of intelligence operations is also known as Five Eyes (FVEY).[3][4][5][6] Emerging from an intelligence sharing agreement related to the 1941 Atlantic Charter, the secret treaty was renewed with the passage of the 1943 BRUSA Agreement, before being formally enacted on 5 March 1946 by the United Kingdom and the United States. In the following years, it was extended to encompass the three Commonwealth realms of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Other countries, know as "third parties", such as West Germany, the Philippines and several Scandinavian countries also joined the UKUSA community.[7]

Much of the sharing of information is performed via the ultra-sensitive STONEGHOST network, which contains "the Western world's most closely guarded secrets".[8] In addition to intelligence sharing, the UKUSA agreement forms the basic foundation of the Special Relationship between the UK and the USA.[9]

Due to its status as a secret treaty, its existence was not known to the Prime Minister of Australia until 1973,[10] and it was not disclosed to the public until 2005.[9] On June 25, 2010, for the first time in history, the full text of the agreement was publicly released by Britain's National Archives, and can now be viewed online.[7][11] Shortly after is release, the seven-page UKUSA Agreement was recognized by Time magazine magazine as one of the Cold War's most important documents with immense historical significance.[9]

Currently, the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures by Edward Snowden has shown that many intelligence-sharing activities between the First World allies of the Cold War are rapidly shifting into the realm of the World Wide Web.[12][13][14]


The parties agree to the exchange of the products of the following operations relating to foreign communications:-

  1. Collection of traffic.
  2. Acquisition of communications documents and equipment.
  3. Traffic analysis.
  4. Cryptanalysis.
  5. Decryption and translation.
  6. Acquisition of information regarding communications organizations, procedures, practices and equipment.

The agreement originated from a ten-page British–U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement, also known as BRUSA, that connected the signal intercept networks of the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) at the beginning of the Cold War. The document was signed on March 5, 1946 by Colonel Patrick Marr-Johnson for the U.K.'s London Signals Intelligence Board and Lieutenant General Hoyt Vandenberg for the U.S. State–Army–Navy Communication Intelligence Board. Although the original agreement states that the exchange would not be "prejudicial to national interests", the United States often blocked information sharing from Commonwealth countries. The full text of the agreement was released to the public on June 25, 2010.[7]

Under the agreement, the GCHQ and the NSA shared intelligence on the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and several eastern European countries (known as Exotics).[15] The network was expanded in the 1960s into the Echelon collection and analysis network.[16]

In July 2013, as part of the 2013 Edward Snowden revelations, it emerged that the NSA is paying GCHQ for its services, with at least £100 million of payments made between 2010 and 2013.[17]

On 11 September 2013, The Guardian released a leaked document provided by Edward Snowden which reveals a similar agreement between the NSA and Israel's Unit 8200.[18]


Although the UKUSA alliance is often associated with the ECHELON system, processed intelligence is reliant on multiple sources of information and the intelligence shared is not restricted to signals intelligence. The following table provides an overview of the government agencies involved and their respective responsibilities within the "Five Eyes" community:[3]

Country Signals intelligence Defence intelligence Security intelligence Human intelligence
United States National Security Agency (NSA) DIA FBI CIA
 United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) DIS MI5 MI6
 Australia Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) DIO ASIO ASIS
 Canada Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) CDI CSIS CSIS
 New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) DDIS SIS SIS

Global coverage

Each member of the UKUSA alliance is officially assigned lead responsibility for intelligence collection and analysis in different parts of the globe.

Five Eyes


Australia hunts for communications originating in Indochina, Indonesia, and southern China.[3]


Formerly the northern portions of the former Soviet Union and conducting sweeps of all communications traffic that could be picked up from embassies around the world. In the post-Cold War era, a greater emphasis has been placed on monitoring satellite, radio and cellphone traffic originating from Central and South America.[3]

New Zealand

The Waihopai Valley Facility – base of the New Zealand branch of the ECHELON Program.

New Zealand is responsible for the western $3. Listening posts in the South Island at Waihopai Valley just south-west of Blenheim, and on the North Island at Tangimoana. The Anti-Bases Campaign holds regular protests in order to have the listening posts closed down. New Zealand is responsible for targeting Southeast Asia.[3]

United Kingdom

Europe, Africa, and European Russia.[3]

United States

Monitors most of Latin America, Asia, Asiatic Russia, and northern China.[3]

Third parties

This diagram depicts the relationship between the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the so-called "second parties", which comprises the UKUSA community, and the "third parties" made up of members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other Western allies:
NSA and second parties—Extensive mutual sharing of signals intelligence[19]
NSA and third parties—Signals intelligence is funelled to the NSA in exchange for surveillance technology and cash[19]

The "Five Eyes" community is part of a huge alliance of Western democracies sharing signals intelligence with each other. These allied countries include NATO members (such as Denmark) and other U.S. allies (most notably Singapore and South Korea).[3]

As early as the 1950s, several Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden joined the community. They were soon followed by Denmark (1954) and West Germany (1955).[7] These countries became "third parties" participants in the UKUSA network.[20]

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has a "massive body" called the Foreign Affairs Directorate that is responsible for partnering with other Western allies such as Israel.[21]

However, being a partner of the NSA does not automatically exempt a country from being targeted by the NSA. According to an internal NSA document leaked by Snowden, "We (the NSA) can, and often do, target the signals of most 3rd party foreign partners."[22]


During the 2013 NSA leaks cyber spying scandal, the surveillance agencies of the "Five Eyes" have been accused of intentionally spying on one another's citizens and willingly sharing the collected information with each other, allegedly circumventing laws preventing each agency from spying on its own citizens.[23][24][25][26]

The 2013 NSA leaks are not entirely new, but rather, they are a confirmation of earlier disclosures about the UK-USA espionage alliance. For example, the British newspaper The Independent reported back in 1996 that the U.S. National Security Agency "taps UK phones" at the request of the British intelligence agency MI5, thus allowing British agents to evade restrictive limitations on domestic telephone tapping.[27]

The mutual surveillance and sharing of information between allies of the UK and USA resurfaced again during the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures. As described by the news magazine Der Spiegel, this was done to circumvent domestic surveillance regulations:

"Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency can spy on anyone but British nationals, the NSA can conduct surveillance on anyone but Americans, and Germany's BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) foreign intelligence agency can spy on anyone but Germans. That's how a matrix is created of boundless surveillance in which each partner aids in a division of roles.

They exchanged information. And they worked together extensively. That applies to the British and the Americans, but also to the BND, which assists the NSA in its Internet surveillance."[28]

According to The Guardian, the "Five Eyes" community is an exclusive club where new members "do not seem to be welcome":

It does not matter how senior you are, and how close a friend you think you are to Washington or London, your communications could easily be being shared among the handful of white, English-speaking nations with membership privileges.[29]


Following a request by the U.S. Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI), the British comedian Charlie Chaplin was placed under surveillance by MI5 agents in the 1950s[30][31]

The British singer John Lennon, a member of The Beatles, was placed under surveillance by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in the early 1970s[32][33]


  • Ban Ki-moon - The 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations was spied on by U.S. diplomats.[34][35]
  • Dilma Rousseff - The President of Brazil and her aides were put under surveillance by the NSA[36][37]
  • Dmitry Medvedev - The Russian Prime Minister's phone calls were monitored by the NSA[38]
  • Enrique Peña Nieto - The President of Mexico was spied on by the NSA.[37][39]
  • Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer - Iraq's Interim President made several romantic phone calls that caught the NSA's attention[40][41]
  • Kofi Annan - The 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations was spied on by UK intelligence agents.[42][43]
  • Mehmet Şimşek - Turkey's Minister of Finance was identified as a target of Britain's GCHQ[44][45]
  • Mohamed ElBaradei - The Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency was put under surveillance by the Bush administration[46]
  • Nelson Mandela - The President of South Africa and his ANC hideout were closely watched by British MI6 agents[47][48]
  • Tony Blair - The former British Prime Minister was put under surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency, which routinely listened into and recorded all of Blair's private telephone calls.[40][49]
  • Princess Diana - The Princess of Wales was put under surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency, which intercepted all her phone calls right until she died in a Paris car crash with Dodi Fayed in 1997. The NSA currently holds 1,056 pages of classified information about Princess Diana, which cannot be released to public because it is still classified Top Secret.[50][51]

On behalf of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) spied on two British cabinet ministers in 1983, according to former CSEC agent Mike Frost. Thatcher's office refused to confirm or deny these claims.[52]



Broadcasting networks

Financial institutions

  • MasterCard[55]
  • Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication[55]
  • Visa Inc.[55]

Oil corporations

Search engines

Telecom operators


  • Tsinghua University[62]

See also


  1. "Declassified UKUSA Signals Intelligence Agreement Documents Available". National Security Agency. June 24, 2010. Retrieved June 25, 2010. 
  2. Also known as the Quadripartite Agreement or Quadripartite Pact (EPIC, Privacy International (2002). "Privacy and Human Rights 2002: An International Survey of Privacy Rights and Developments". Epic, 2002. p. 100. ISBN 1-893044-16-5. )
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Cox, James. "Canada and the Five Eyes Intelligence Community". Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  4. McGregor, Richard. "Global Insight: US spying risks clouding ‘five eyes’ vision". Financial Times. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  5. Ben Grubb. "Mission almost impossible: keeping a step ahead of prying 'Five Eyes'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  6. Gurney, Matt. "Canada Navy Spy Case". National Post. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Norton-Taylor, Richard (June 25, 2010). "Not so secret: deal at the heart of UK-US intelligence". The Guardian. Retrieved June 25, 2010. 
  8. Rob Gordon. "Navy spy probe kept military in dark: documents". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 October 2013. "The military's fears were well-founded, given Delisle had access to terabytes of some of the Western world's most closely guarded secrets. He operated a computer system called Stone Ghost, which links the intelligence services of the Five Eyes: the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand." 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Adam White (June 29, 2010). "How a Secret Spy Pact Helped Win the Cold War". Time magazine.,8599,2000262,00.html. 
  10. Jordan Chittley and Kevin Newman. "Canada’s role in secret intelligence alliance Five Eyes". CTV News. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  11. "Newly released GCHQ files: UKUSA Agreement". The National Archives (United Kingdom). June 2010. "The files contain details of the recently avowed UKUSA Agreement - the top secret, post-war arrangement for sharing intelligence between the United States and the UK. Signed by representatives of the London Signals Intelligence Board and its American counterpart in March 1946, the UKUSA Agreement is without parallel in the Western intelligence world and formed the basis for co-operation between the two countries throughout the Cold War." 
  12. MELISSA EDDY. "For Western Allies, a Long History of Swapping Intelligence". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  13. Nathan Smith. "The world of signals intelligence and GCSB in context". National Business Review. Retrieved 20 October 2013. "A partnership with various telecommunications industries has secured access to the internet for the UKUSA signals agencies. All traffic on the internet and via emails is reportedly captured and stored." 
  14. Alexander Abdo and Patrick Toomey. "The NSA is turning the internet into a total surveillance system". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  15. Aldrich, Richard (June 24, 2010). "Allied code-breakers co-operate – but not always". The Guardian. Retrieved June 25, 2010. 
  16. Gardham, Duncan (June 24, 2010). "Document that formalised 'special relationship' with the US". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved June 25, 2010. 
  17. NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ, The Guardian, 1 Aug 2013. Retrieved 2 Aug 2013.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "They're Listening To Your Calls". Bloomberg Businessweek. May 30, 1999. 
  20. Duncan Campbell. "Inside Echelon". Heinz Heise. Retrieved 25.07.2000. "The system was established under a secret 1947 "UKUSA Agreement," which brought together the British and American systems, personnel and stations. To this was soon joined the networks of three British commonwealth countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Later, other countries including Norway, Denmark, Germany and Turkey signed secret sigint agreements with the United States and became "third parties" participants in the UKUSA network." 
  21. "Edward Snowden Interview: The NSA and Its Willing Helpers". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  22. Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark. "Ally and Target: US Intelligence Watches Germany Closely". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 29 August 2013. "The NSA classifies about 30 other countries as "3rd parties," with whom it cooperates, though with reservations. Germany is one of them. "We can, and often do, target the signals of most 3rd party foreign partners," the secret NSA document reads." 
  23. GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications, The Guardian, 21 June 2013. Retrieved July 2013.
  24. NSA 'offers intelligence to British counterparts to skirt UK law', The Guardian, 10 June 2013. Retrieved July 2013.
  25. GCHQ-NSA revelations – Hague responds: politics blog, The Guardian, 10 June 2013, Retrieved July 2013.
  26. British spy agency taps cables, shares with U.S. NSA – Guardian, Reuters, 21 June 2013. Retrieved July 2013.
  27. Chris Blackhurst and John Gilbert (22 September 1996). "US spy base `taps UK phones for MI5'". The Independent. 
  28. Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid, Holger Stark and Jonathan Stock. "Cover Story: How the NSA Targets Germany and Europe". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  29. Julian Borger. "Merkel spying claim: with allies like these, who needs enemies?". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  30. Richard Norton-Taylor (17 February 2012). "MI5 spied on Charlie Chaplin after FBI asked for help to banish him from US". The Guardian. 
  31. Douglas Stanglin (2012-02-17). "British spy files show FBI efforts to ban Charlie Chaplin". USA Today. 
  32. ADAM COHEN (September 21, 2006). "While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  33. Andrew Gumbel. "The Lennon Files: The FBI and the Beatle". The Independent. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  34. "US diplomats spied on UN leadership". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  35. Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark. "Diplomats or Spooks? How US Diplomats Were Told to Spy on UN and Ban Ki-Moon". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  36. "Brazil Angered Over Report N.S.A. Spied on President". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 BRADLEY BROOKS. "Report: NSA spied on leaders of Brazil, Mexico". Associated Press. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  38. "GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2013. "• Receiving reports from an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow." 
  39. "Leaders of Mexico and Brazil Rebuke U.S. for NSA Snooping". TIME. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 Brian Ross (24 November 2008). "Whistleblower: U.S. Snooped on Tony Blair, Iraqi President". ABC News. 
  41. "What do the US spies have on Tony Blair?". The Week. 25 Nov 2008. "He also gave details of how he eavesdropped on romantic phone calls made by Ghazi al-Yawer, the interim President of Iraq between 2004 and 2005. He summed these up as "courting, wooing and pillow talk", but would not be drawn on the nature of the information the NSA held on Blair." 
  42. "UK 'spied on UN's Kofi Annan'". BBC. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  43. PATRICK E. TYLER. [1]nal/europe/26CND-BRIT.html "Ex-Minister Says British Spies Bugged Kofi Annan’s Office"]. The New York Times.]nal/europe/26CND-BRIT.html. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  44. Philippe Naughton. "Turkey summons UK charge d’affaires in G20 spying row". The Times. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  45. "G20 surveillance: why was Turkey targeted?". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  46. Dafna Linzer. "IAEA Leader's Phone Tapped". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  47. "British intelligence 'birdwatchers spied on Nelson Mandela's hideout'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  48. "Nelson Mandela ‘was spied on by MI6 birdwatchers’". The Times. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  49. Tom Leonard (24 Nov 2008). "Tony Blair's private life spied on by US intelligence agency". The Daily Telegraph. 
  50. Vernon Loeb (December 12, 1998). "NSA Admits to Spying on Princess Diana". The Washington Post. 
  51. David Hencke and Rob Evans (6 August 1999). "US holds secret files on Diana". The Guardian. 
  52. "Thatcher 'spied on ministers'". BBC. 25 February 2000. 
  53. "NSA hacked Al-Jazeera and Russia’s Aeroflot – report". Russia Today. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  54. Staff (31 August 2013). "Snowden Document: NSA Spied On Al Jazeera Communications". Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 "'Follow the Money': NSA Spies on International Payments". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  56. ROMERO, SIMON. "N.S.A. Spied on Brazilian Oil Company, Report Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  57. Ryan Gallagher. "New Snowden Documents Show NSA Deemed Google Networks a "Target"". magazine. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  58. Bradley Brooks. "Snowden leaks reveal U.S. spying on Google, Brazil’s state oil company: report". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 24 October 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  59. "France in the NSA's crosshair : Wanadoo and Alcatel targeted". Le Monde. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  60. Schmitz, Gregor-Peter (September 20, 2013). "Cyber Attack: Belgians Angered by British Spying". Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  61. Lam, Lana (23 June 2013). "US hacked Pacnet, Asia Pacific fibre-optic network operator, in 2009". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong). Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  62. "Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 

Further reading

  • Bryden, John. Best Kept Secret: Canadian Secret Intelligence in the Second World War. Toronto: Lester Publishing, 1993, ISBN 1895555299.
  • Coxsedge, Joan; Coldicutt, Ken; Harant, Gerry (1982). "Rooted in secrecy: the clandestine element in Australian politics". Committee for the Abolition of Political Police. p. 101. 
  • Frost, Mike and Michel Gratton. Spyworld: Inside the Canadian and American Intelligence Establishments. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1994.
  • Hamilton, Dwight. Inside Canadian Intelligence: Exposing the New Realities of Espionage and International Terrorism. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006.
  • Janczewski, Lech; Colarik, Andrew M. (2008). "Cyber warfare and cyber terrorism, Premier Reference Series, Gale virtual reference library". Idea Group Inc (IGI). pp. 454,455. ISBN 1-59140-991-8. 
  • Hager, Nicky (1996) Secret Power, New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network; Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ; ISBN 0-908802-35-8; (ONLINE EDITION)
  • Richelson, Jeffrey T.; Ball, Desmond (1985). The Ties That Bind: Intelligence Cooperation Between the UKUSA Countries. London: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-327092-1.
  • Richelson, Jeffrey T. The United States Intelligence Community, fifth ed. Westview Press, Boulder, Colo.; ISBN 978-0-8133-4362-4; 2008.
  • Rosen, Philip. The Communications Security Establishment: Canada’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency. Ottawa: Library of Parliament Research Branch, 1993.
  • Rudner, Martin. Canada’s Communications Security Establishment: From the Cold War to Globalization in Intelligence and National Security. Volume 16 Number 1 (Spring 2001). 97–128.
  • Whitaker, Reginald. Cold War Alchemy: How America, Britain, and Canada Transformed Espionage into Subversion in Intelligence and National Security.

External links

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